This blog post is an expanded version of an article that appears in the October 2022 edition of Engage! This blog may be updated as more resources become available, and was updated on 10/31/2022.
One of my preferred personal anxiety-fighting behaviors is to use my research skills to gain information, and every election season puts that to the test. As an adult human on Earth in 2022, I find myself mostly short on time, sleep, patience, attention span, and inner peace. And as the election gets closer and closer I know that soon adding to my stressors is a large ballot that will demand a lot of research on a ticking clock.
Research takes time, even for someone like me whose entire professional career hinges on this ability. And because life doesn't stop for us to fill out our ballots, I've developed some basic tips over time to avoid a panicked research-as-you-fill-in-bubbles cram session at the last possible second. I've also gathered some resources to save a bit of searching time.
I hope the following pointers are helpful to you as we work together to make our voices heard.
Know key dates
The big one: Election Day itself is November 8, 2022. County Clerks must receive mailed and dropped off ballots by 7 p.m. on that day (unless you're overseas or in the military). In-person voters must be in the polling place line by the 7 p.m. deadline to complete their vote.
You can visit the Secretary of State's Elections page to find a complete calendar of election dates. Here are some other important dates to note:
- Every registered voter in Colorado automatically receives a mail ballot, which will be sent out during the week of October 17-21.
- Early voting locations and drop boxes will open on Monday, October 24.
- Monday, October 31 is the last day to register to vote and still receive a mail ballot.
Check your registration
In Colorado, all eligible voters may register to vote until the polls close on Election Day, but if you register on or after October 31 you will have to vote in person.
Fun fact: in 2021, Colorado enacted Automatic Voter Registration, so if you've been to the DMV recently you may have been registered. But just to be safe, you should go to GoVoteColorado.gov to ensure your registration information is correct.
Those who are not yet 18 years old but will be by Election Day may preregister to vote (and others can preregister for future elections starting at age 16).
Know about accessible elections
Many facets of Colorado voting are able to accommodate voters with disabilities. Here are some important points.
As noted above, the Colorado Talking Book Library records audio versions of the Ballot Information Booklet, as both a digital download and as a cartridge sent by mail to CTBL patrons.
This FAQ from the Secretary of State has a lot of information about accommodations in place, including ADA compliance at in-person polling places, voting machines equipped with accessible and adaptive technology, and more. You can also contact your county with specific concerns about being able to access your right to vote.
If a paper ballot is inaccessible to a voter, they may be eligible for an electronic ballot. Learn more from the Secretary of State.
To get information about the nuts and bolts of the election itself, the Secretary of State's Elections page is a trove of information, including some very helpful FAQs that can provide details on casting ballots if you are overseas, a college student, justice-involved, and more. Colorado's 64 counties also each have their own elections office with local information. Denver voters can visit denvervotes.org.
And now we head into murkier informational territory, where voters will have to start making judgment calls on candidates and ballot issues. One very handy resource is the Ballot Information Booklet (aka "the Blue Book"), which is published by Colorado's Legislative Council Staff and sent out automatically by mail ahead of the election (2022's has already been sent out). The Blue Book includes ballot language, fiscal impact, and issue analysis, including a very handy pro and con rundown of each statewide ballot measure. It is available in print in Spanish. The Colorado Talking Book Library also offers a recorded audio version (both online and on audio cartridge). Your home county may also send its own booklet for local ballot measures. Denver's guides are available for download in both English and Spanish on the Clerk and Recorder's website (see: #3: Research Your Ballot), and also include a lot of other helpful information such as voting locations.
For ongoing news coverage, as well as more opinion-oriented stories, Colorado has many free news sources that typically publish voter guides, fact check, and take deep looks at ballot issues and candidates. These will likely be our richest resources for in-depth coverage of all things Colorado. Here is a list:
- Colorado Sun's Voter Guide and Election 2022 topic. The Sun also has this fantastic schedule of major candidate debates.
- Colorado Public Radio has a voter guide for statewide issues, including information on elected officials like judges, the Colorado State Board of Education, and the University of Colorado Regents. Explore CPR's 2022 elections topic for in-depth stories on this year's election. CPR also owns Denverite, which has a voter guide that focuses more on Denver County's ballots. Denverite's Government & Politics topic that may come in handy for more election coverage. (Both of these voter guides also have links to their Spanish language versions as well.)
- Remember that TV stations' presence aren't limited to just TV! 9News has a one-stop elections page in addition to its stories on politics; CBS Colorado has a voting guide and political coverage; Denver7 has political coverage, but nothing dedicated to midterms as of yet; and KDVR has an elections topic as well as poll results.
Of course, not all news information sources are free, and many news consumers are shut out by subscription requirements for major national papers and, perhaps most notably for my purposes here, the Denver Post. However, DPL cardholders can use our Newspapers topic page to access a treasure trove of papers through our databases collection. For those who prefer analog, some branches also receive physical copies of newspapers, so call your library branch to confirm their subscription.
Beware of bad information
The other side of the coin to seeking out information is that you have to avoid internalizing bad information. One of the things that I've developed as a library specialty is learning about misinformation, and let me tell you it can be anywhere.
We have a page dedicated to Spotting Misinformation that has a lot of resources, such as fact-checkers, media literacy organizations, and relevant databases in our collection. This can be a lot to take in, and so there's also a handy skills-based approach that has a nice acronym. Professor Mike Caulfield, who works at Washington State University Vancouver and with University of Washington's Center for an Informed Public, developed SIFT, which can help you make quick, informed judgements on information that you see. SIFT stands for:
- Stop - Feeling strong emotions may mean that you're looking at something misleading.
- Investigate - Look into the resource publishing the information to evaluate biases.
- Find trusted coverage - See if there's a consensus about this information across resources.
- Trace claims back to their source - Look at the quote, study, etc., in its original context.
If you want to take a deeper look at SIFT, consider visiting my blog series on Misinformation Sleuthing.
Sometimes misinformation is really easy to spot because it's outlandish (that "strong emotions" bit I just mentioned). For example, political candidates across the nation, including Coloradans such as gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl, have been perpetuating a false claim that schools are putting out litter boxes for students who "identify as cats." There is no shortage of informational resources debunking this claim, including not just local news outlets and TV stations, but even bigger news names like NBC News, USA Today and even Wikipedia.
But sometimes it's not easy to find misinformation. While writing this post, I found a story from 2021 in which Next with Kyle Clark investigated last year's Denver ballot guide. A viewer noted that the comments against Measure 2C seemed off. Next found that the comments are not checked for or bound to accuracy and that any registered voter can submit their opinion for inclusion in the guide, unlike the state Blue Book, which is only written by nonpartisan legislative staff. This isn't necessarily good or bad--but it is information that can add important context for people using the ballot booklet in their decision-making.
This story is a great example of how SIFT can be useful. The voter in the video mentioned that the study referenced in the voter guide was not cited, meaning it was impossible to Trace the claim back to its original source, and thus the claim was not verified. This is another scenario in which Finding trusted coverage is important. Relying on only one informational resource can be risky. Voters may take the fact that the argument against the ballot measure was printed and distributed in a document by the Denver Elections Division as a sign that this information was fact-checked, or created by policy experts. Looking at multiple sources on the same topic can help clarify where consensus lies or where informational discrepancies might exist, potentially informing or changing someone's opinion or vote.
In the Next segment, Marshall Zelinger notes there were thirteen local ballot measures in the 2021 voter guide. If you're trying to really delve into a topic to sort out your thoughts, feelings, and ultimately your voting choice, going through a single ballot thoroughly can result in a huge amount of research. This is why it can be a good idea to try to check in regularly with election news as November 8 gets closer, to break up that research process into manageable pieces. Taking more time with research can also help with developing a list of go-to resources, whether that's publications, reporters, databases, fact-checking websites, etc. This is something we all do, but taking time to evaluate and re-evaluate sources can help your list evolve alongside your opinions and values on issues that may show up on future ballots.
Check in with your library
DPL has a slate of election-related resources in one handy location. Go to denverlibrary.org/vote to see programs, databases, book recommendations, and blog posts. You can also contact us by phone, email, or chat to find or learn more about these resources.
The image used for this blog post showing an election at Denver East High School is a WPA Photo from 1940. Learn more about it here and browse our Digital Collections here.